Hello to you Bennu!

Bennu Asteroid (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP)

There’s so much fun space exploration going on right now. With the Mars Insight Lander and the Japanese landing on an asteroid, among many other exciting new projects.

Now the Americans are about to try to replicated the success of the Japanese. Yesterday, after a two year journey, a spacecraft transporting the robotic explorer dubbed Osiris-Rex arrived at another asteroid, this one named Bennu. It’s currently orbiting the asteroid at a mere 19km and will get closer as the days go on.

Bennu is thought to be about 500 meters across and is about 122 million km away from Earth. The spacecraft will orbit it for a year before scooping just over 60 grams of material and sending back to earth. Its booty is expected back around 2023.

The purpose of the mission is to better understand the birth of the solar system, as the asteroid is thought to date back 4.5 billion years, around the time the solar system came into existence.

Bennu is also thought to be something of a risk for us, as it’s getting closer and closer to Earth with every pass. They predict it could hit the Earth in about 150 years and cause significant damage. From this mission, they also hope to be better able to understand how to avert that potential calamity.

Read more:

Nasa probe reaches Bennu asteroid that could one day hit Earth

NASA spacecraft arrives at ancient asteroid, its 1st visitor

The Frontier of Computing

The BBC has an interesting piece on the state of quantum computers.

For those of you who don’t know, quantum computers offer to harness the power of the strange ‘magic’ properties of quantum mechanics, and bring about some seriously powerful computing. For example, unlike a traditional binary computer where a switch is either on or off, i.e. a 1 or a 0, a quantum computer can use superposition to be on or off, plus on and off.

The concepts and mechanics of a quantum computer are known in theory, but putting them into practice is proving difficult. The quantum effects of the quantum computer are highly sensitive to interference and are unpredictable which currently results in lots of error. If this issue can be sorted out, then it’s off to the races. There are, as the article discusses, several companies taking different approaches to the problem. IBM for example, is cooling the quantum bits, or qubits, that run the computer down to almost absolute zero to stabilise them.

Moore’s Law, which states that computing power will double, get twice as energy efficient, and half the size, every two years, is finally reaching its limits.  Quantum computing would blow the lid off that law and no doubt change the world as we know it.

Mastering quantum computing will bring serious and fast technological breakthroughs – including no doubt, the long theorised ‘singularity‘.

It’s pretty exciting stuff and an area to keep an eye on!


Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45273584